Over the last year, the situation in Darfur had “deteriorated significantly”, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations told the Security Council today, urging the 15-member body and the African Union to step up pressure on parties to start direct negotiations towards ceasing hostilities — the first step on a path to lasting peace in the restive Sudanese region.
In his quarterly briefing, Hervé Ladsous presented two reports: the Secretary-General’s report on the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), which covers work from 26 November 2014 to 12 February (document S/2015/141*), as well as a special report (document S/2015/163) on the Operation’s three new strategic priorities, endorsed by the Council through resolution 2148 (2014) and whose implementation, Mr. Ladsous said, was the primary goal.
Those priorities included: support for mediation between the Government and rebels who had not signed the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur; protection of civilians and work to establish security conditions necessary for unhindered humanitarian access; and — in consultation with the United Nations country teams — mediation of community conflicts. A proposal on tasks to be transferred to United Nations country teams would be presented in the Secretary-General’s next report, at the end of May, he said. A report containing a proposed exit strategy would also be presented at that time.
On support for mediation, Mr. Ladsous said the African Union-United Nations Joint Mediator, throughout the year, had called on rebels who had not signed the Doha Document to do so without preconditions, while it pressed the Sudanese Government to offer a peaceful settlement to conflicts around country. Talks among the Government, the Sudan Liberation Army — Minni Minnawi, and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM-Jibril) were held from 22 to 30 November 2014 in Addis Ababa, under the auspices of the Union’s High-Level Implementation Panel for Sudan.
Those talks, however, were suspended, due to differing views on modalities, he said, specifically, the Government’s rejection of rebel proposals for reconciliation, humanitarian, development and property issues to be addressed in separate negotiations. Sudan maintained that the Doha Document was the exclusive framework, whereas rebels said it did not represent a commitment for them.
On the humanitarian front, the Mission had established protection areas around camps in Saraf Umra, Korma and Um Baru in North Darfur, he said, as well as in Khor Abeche in South Darfur, which had required additional military and police units. Those efforts had helped to prevent civilian attacks in Kalma, Labado, Kabkabiya in South, East and North Darfur, respectively.
To promote inter-community dialogue, he said, the Mission had been in contact with traditional leaders, central and local leaders, civil society and youth groups, making it possible to sign local cessation of hostilities agreements and attenuate violence in four major conflicts: between Ma’alia and Rizeigat, and Ma’alia and Hammar in the east; between Beni Hussein and Rizeigat in the north; and between Salamat and Misseriya in central Darfur.
At the same time, the Mission had worked to address the three challenges identified in last year’s strategic review, he said. While cooperation with Sudan had improved in terms of reduced duration of approvals for contingent-owned equipment and visa requests, Sudan’s denial of access to conflict-affected areas had “significantly” impeded the Mission’s ability to protect civilians, especially in Thabit, North Darfur, following charges of mass rape in October, as well as East Jebel Marra since fighting increased in December. Similar restrictions were also imposed on humanitarian actors.
Also in the last year, the Mission had addressed operational capabilities and effectiveness, he said. The military component had undergone “structural and compositional” changes, which had increased the serviceability rate of contingent-owned equipment to more than 90 per cent. A study would be carried out in the next three months to ensure that the current force deployment was in line with the strategic priorities. The police component had completed the streamlining of its command-and-control structures.
More broadly, Mr. Ladsous said fighting between the Government and non-signatory armed groups had significantly increased. While the Government’s “Decisive Summer” military offensive had degraded the capacity of some of those rebels, it had caused a huge loss of life. The humanitarian situation also had deteriorated, with an estimated 450,000 people displaced in 2014 due to violence — a record in any single year since the conflict’s 2004 peak. A total of 2.5 million people had been forced to leave their homes.
He said the recent upsurge in violence was largely due to the Government’s military offensive, rather than tensions ahead of the 13 April general elections. While it was “doubtful” a national dialogue would be held before the polls, opposition parties, armed movements and civil society had met from 24 to 28 February in Berlin, adopting a “Berlin Declaration” that called for an inclusive preparatory meeting to be held in Addis Ababa to revive those prospects.
After the briefing, Hassan Hamid Hassan (Sudan) said the Council was examining two documents covering different reporting periods, which did not permit an accurate portrayal of developments in his country. The first trimester had seen an upsurge in armed attacks, which his Government had sought to counter by the deployment of armed forces, as any other country would have in such a situation.
Further, the majority of provisions in the Doha Agreement had been implemented, he said, and there had been satisfactory progress towards the establishment of peace and stability. Groups that had not signed the accord continued to sabotage the Doha process and hinder UNAMID’s exit strategy that was being worked on. Those factions would like the internally displaced to remain in camps, which would give them a pretext to continue fighting. Therefore, Sudan rejected references to a freeze in the political process, he said, adding that other parts of the reports had in fact indicated progress.
Regarding UNAMID’s working environment, he said only 21 visa requests were pending in a mission involving thousands of personnel. As such, any reference to constraints imposed by the Government on UNAMID was inaccurate. Tribal violence and criminal activities in Darfur were “as ancient as the region itself” and any exit strategy could not be conditioned on their end. The national dialogue process, launched in January, would lead to elections and continue afterward. He asked the Council to put pressure on non-signatory armed groups, so that efforts could be accelerated towards achieving lasting peace and reconciliation.
The meeting began at 10:07 a.m. and ended at 10:45 a.m.
* The 7404th Meeting was closed.